The Trail to Death Valley

Hi everyone,

This week, I begin a new series of posts and photos from our November journey from Madison to Death Valley and return. Today’s post will offer you a taste of what is to come in the next several weeks.

Before beginning that journey, I’m pausing to offer a reminder that yesterday, November 27 was Holodomor Remembrance Day around the world. This day honors the victims of the 1932-33 genocide of millions of Ukrainian people at the hand of the Soviet Union’s, Joseph Stalin. His actions to starve the Ukrainians, destroy their culture, and language were effective only in the short term. Eventually Ukraine, through perseverance, achieved their independence when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991.

About this time last year, I wrote an extensive article with photos about the Holodomor, click here to read. We need to keep in mind, Russia is amassing troops and equipment on the eastern border of Ukraine. It’s my belief, the United States needs to support our European allies in fending off this aggression so the Ukrainian people can live in peace and prosper.

Now on the trail to Death Valley.

It was Saturday October 30 when we (my Traveling Partner accompanied me) loaded up the Red Rover and set out for Death Valley National Park. There, I would meet up with a group of photographers that has gathered yearly (minus 2020) since 2015 after we met at a photo workshop at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.

From Madison to Death Valley, the shortest and quickest route is 1844 miles, one way. But along the drive out and back, we would detour to visit eleven (and counting) national parks and monuments. Here’s the preview of coming attractions.

Colorado National Monument

After a couple of days of long drives and visits with family and friends, we stopped at the first place on our list, the Colorado National Monument. We had great memories of this park from our 2015 West Coast Swing. We got the very last camp spot in the campground on a beautiful September Saturday evening when all the other nearby campgrounds were filled to capacity. We remembered the clear skies filled with bright stars overlooking the town of Fruita, Colorado in the valley below. Since we were towing a trailer and had a deadline to be in Denver the next day, we couldn’t explore the park. This trip, we lodged in Fruita and spent a whole day driving through the park and taking short hikes on the many trails. Here are a couple of photos to give you a taste of what’s to come in a full blog about this park.

Canyonlands National Park

After the Colorado National Monument, we drove over the state line into Utah where we would spend most of our days before reaching Death Valley on November 14. We lodged in Moab, Utah within a short driving distance to two national parks. On our first day, we made the 45-minute drive from Moab to the entrance of the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. Two days later we’d view the southern Needles portion. After a stop at the visitor center for a map and information, we drove the long scenic road through the park. The day was sunny and pleasant, we stopped at every overlook to view the striking scenery carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers before merging downstream. Here are a few photos from Canyonlands to peak your interest in a future blog post.

Arches National Park

Also near Moab is Arches National Park. Arches is home to more than 2000 natural arches, the highest density of any place in the world. Although Arches is about one-fourth the size of Canyonlands, it boasts about twice as many visitors. It’s hard to compete with the many arches within viewing distance of the scenic road. The famous Delicate Arch, even though challenging to reach, receives thousands of visitors each day. Even without arches and spires, the landscape is beautiful and majestic. We vowed to make a return visit in the near future. Here are a couple of photos of what is come in the future.

Capitol Reef National Park

Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is long (nearly 100 miles) and narrow (about 6 miles) covering over 240,000 acres. This park protects the spectacular Waterpocket Fold created by the Fremont River. In addition to the natural beauty, this park features the remnants of the Mormon settlement of the Fremont River Valley. The park entrance is near the town of Torrey where lodging, food, and fuel can be procured in this sparsely populated area of Utah.

On our way to Torrey to bed down for the night, we drove through the park on the scenic highway 24, stopping for a few photos and a gawk at the high cathedral buttes. The next morning, a Sunday, we spent the day on the scenic drive and hiking to Hickman Bridge. That’s a story in itself so check back to hear the rest of the story. In the meantime, here’s a couple photos of Capitol Reef.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is technically not a canyon but a series of amphitheaters from north to south in the park. We stayed just outside the park in Bryce Canyon City, a resort town built to accommodate the nearly 3 million tourist that visit the park each year. Late fall is much quieter than the the busy summer season so we were free to drive through the park rather than ride the shuttle. The main feature in this park is the many large “hoodoos” that populate the park. Some are over 200 feet tall. It is quite a site to see. On our first peek, I think we stood at Sunset Point with our mouths open at the majestic valley that lay before us. It’s something to see, we never tired of the scenery as we drove and walked through the park. Here are couple of photos.

Zion National Park

After a couple of day of exploring Bryce Canyon, we made our way towards Zion National Park in the southwest corner of Utah. This park is very popular, receiving nearly 4 million visitors a year. It was early afternoon when we entered the east entrance to the park. This winding drive, complete with a couple of tunnels and switchbacks, takes visitors past high reddish colored peaks and valleys to the visitor center. We were fortunate to snag a parking spot and make an afternoon foray into the visitor center and chat with a park ranger. We learned that the scenic drive along the Virgin River into the park is only accessible by riding the park shuttle. The only vehicles allowed are those with rooms reserved at the Zion Lodge. We would return the next day to ride the shuttle to the interior of the park. There’s much more to this story. In the meantime, here’s a few photos.

Death Valley National Park

After our three day stay in the Zion National Park area, we drove into Nevada, past Las Vegas to Beatty where we stayed the night. The next morning we drove the 27 mile Titus Canyon road to enter Death Valley National Park. We spent five nights at The Oasis at Furnace Creek Lodge and met up with my photography friends for early morning and late afternoon photo shoots led by two experienced and fun professional photographers. Below are two of the thousand photos I took during our time together. I promise I’ll screen out the duplicates and the many crappy attempts to get a decent photo!

By the way, all the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 11 Pro! As I write this blog, we are in North Dakota visiting our families for the first time since January 2020. Editing the many photos taken on this trip is much easier on my desktop computer.

I’ll end with this photo. I purchased these Timberland boots about a month before departing on this trip. This is how they looked just before leaving Death Valley for the ride home, dusty and well used.

Until next week, happy travels!


14 thoughts on “The Trail to Death Valley

  1. This is a great summary of parks that I’ve also visited, many more than once, so I really look forward to the upcoming posts. Your photos do an excellent job of capturing Utah’s red rock splendor.

  2. Your images reminded me that I have yet to visit Zion and Capitol Reef Parks in Utah. They are still on my list. Great images from all of these beautiful parks.

  3. Wow Tom! Your photos of the parks are fantastic and crazy that you took them all with you iPhone. Can’t wait to see your pix with your regular camera!

    1. Thanks Katie. At every location, I also took photos with the iPhone. Came in handy for this on the road blog post. Hope to see you Thursday.

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